December 4, 2012 by Deborah W. Trotter
We arrive late on a Friday afternoon and check in to our tent cabin at Curry Village. The evening is not too chilly to eat dinner outside and watch the raccoons scavenging below the wood deck we’re sitting on.
The next morning after breakfast we set out on foot with the other family groups along the road through the Valley to get to the start of the trail up to the top of Vernal Falls. The day is cold, overcast, so we are bundled up, hoping we don’t get rained on. The Mist Trail will be wet enough without actual precipitation, and our clothes are not what you’d call water impermeable.
As we make our way up the trail, we keep our own pace and lose track of the other families among the many other hikers climbing up to see one of Yosemite’s famous waterfalls. Our two-year-old is in a pack on my husband’s back, which works well until we start to get wet. The rain begins to come down before we get to the stretch called the Mist Trail, perpetually wet and somewhat treacherously slippery from waterfall spray that is a constant. (On warm summer days, the mist is welcome.)
Before we get to the top of the falls, I am worried about my littlest. The air temperature is colder than when we started, and while the rest of us who are hiking and working hard benefit from the body warmth we are generating for ourselves, he is a chilled, wet lump on my husband’s back, quiet, and I am concerned about hypothermia. So my daughter and I forego getting to the top ofthe falls, and start back down the trail with the youngest. We put dry socks on his stiff little hands and make him walk so that he gets everything circulating again. My two older sons and my husband continue to the top of the falls.
By the time the three of us get out of the mist and back down to the foot bridge across the Merced River, a good spot to wait for the others, the rain has stopped. Our two-year-old has warmed up, and entertains himself scaling a big rock and sliding down the other side over and over again until the rest of our family rejoins us about an hour after we separated. When we get back to Curry Village, we learn that all of the other families we are visiting Yosemite with are bailing. Their children are cold and unhappy, and they want to go home.
Well, we are made of tougher stuff than that. And we have already paid for the second night in the tent! We are staying put. Tomorrow is another day. More adventures await.
Never mind that the temperature in our tent the next morning when we awake is 37 degrees! We manage to brave the frigid air and get out of bed and get dressed.
Soon we discover to our delight why it is darn near freezing: yesterday’s rain turned to snow overnight.
The clearing skies reveal a scalloped, lacy white on the granite Valley walls, infinite compensation for having spent another night in that tent.
We start our day indulging in breakfast at the Ahwahnee Hotel.
We spend the rest of it hiking, climbing and messing around in an unexpectedly gorgeous, if chilly, slice of Yosemite springtime.
The thing is, when you visit a National Park, you don’t always get the weather you hope for. But whatever you get, it’s all part of your Park experience. In our case on that April weekend, it is a priceless gift from nature.